Runner Sabrina Verjee has broken her own female record for the 268-mile Pennine Way. She ran from Kirk Yetholm to Edale in 74 hours, 28 minutes and 19 seconds, finishing on Tuesday September 15. Last summer, she was the fastest female in the “summer” Spine Fusion Race on the same route and set a record time of 82:19.
Sabrina: ‘It was probably a stupid idea.’
Just a couple of months ago, Sabrina, 39, of Cumbria, became the first female to complete a non-stop round of the 214 fells known as the Wainwrights.
With little time for a full recovery, she decided to try the Pennine Way challenge. Afterwards, she admitted: “Of course, it was probably a very stupid idea to attempt another long-distance run so soon after the Wainwrights, but what else would I do with my holidays?”
The Wainwrights round had led to a painful knee injury and Sabrina had been worried about this at the start of the Pennine Way.
She said: “The knee issue had disappeared after the Wainwrights, which was a relief. However, I was worried the same knee issue was returning early on in the Pennine Way. So, I did a bit of stretching and it went away.
“But, after that I did I end up with a glute problem. That became really painful and it is still causing me pain and issues days later.”
Sabrina had also been warned by other people that recovery from long-distance multi-day runs can take months. “I was told that the Wainwrights might take a year to recover from,” she said. “But I don’t like to be told how I recover, or what I might be capable of next and when.
“We are all different and every run we do has different recovery needs. I thought I’d just see how I managed on the Pennine Way.
“It turns out I was fine and while I am sure I could have gone faster, I did the whole run in my comfort zone and I was still eight hours faster than my record time in the Montane Spine Race. I am happy with that!”
Highs and lows of the Pennine Way record run
Sabrina describes the run on the Pennine Way as being “inside my comfort zone”. She said: “I go at a pace that I call my happy – or comfort – zone. I can just keep going at the pace for a long time.
“Because the run is supported I can also enjoy the company of many friends, as well as people to carry my kit and give me food and water when I need it.
“What is there not to like? It felt like great way to spend a holiday because I was doing something I love and with people I like.”
The Spine Race – there is a summer and winter version – requires participants to carry all their own kit, food and water, which makes it harder. While, a supported run allows for outside support.
Jasmin Paris ran to first place in the winter Spine Race in 83 hours and 12 minute in 2019. Earlier this year, Sabrina was the female winner of the same race in 108:07.
Sabrina reports that she had intended to sleep more than she did on the recent Pennine Way run. She said: “I think I only had about 45 minutes in total over the whole run. This wasn’t enough. But for some reason I just kept going.”
Apart from sleep deprivation, Sabrina found the head wind testing at times. She said: “I chose to go from north to south and, actually , this wasn’t great because of a headwind. However, by doing it this way, you do the wildest and hardest section of the Way first.
“I decided just to deal with the headwind. Mostly, this was fine, but between Middleton and Tan Hill I was expecting there to be less wind and it was still there. It was in my face and it felt like it was never going to end. I nearly caved in there and then.”
Yet, overall, Sabrina says the challenge was enjoyable. She said: “It was fun and I had a lot of laughs with friends. There were tough sections but you just get through these.
“Even when I was sick towards the end – and I am rarely sick – I thought: “Well, I felt bad, I have been sick and now I feel ok again. That’s better.”
She is convinced she could go faster. Sabrina, veterinary surgeon, said: “I am sure that if my legs were more recovered and it there had not been a headwind, I would have gone faster. But it was a great run and I am pleased with how it turned out. It was a good way to spend a holiday.”
What’s next for Sabrina Verjee?
Another Wainwrights Round is on the cards for next May. She said: “I plan to give the Wainwrights another go and who knows what races might happen in 2021?”
What is the Pennine Way?
The Pennine Way extends 268 miles (431kms) from Edale in England to Kirk Yetholm in Scotland. It includes just under 39,370ft (12,000m) of elevation gain. That is around 1.5 times up and down Mount Everest.